By Andrew Warshaw
February 19 – European football stakeholders have aimed their strongest broadside to date at Gianni Infantino’s contentious $25 billion blueprint to change the landscape of global competitions.
With the FIFA Congress in Miami, where his proposals are due to be voted on, edging ever closer, UEFA, the clubs and leagues have joined forces to openly condemn plans to introduce a 24-team Club World Cup and turn the Nations League into a worldwide tournament.
The emphatic tri-partite rejection of Infantino’s pet project was announced following a meeting of UEFA’s Professional Football Strategy Council which comprises all the main stakeholders.
In a statement, the Council said UEFA, the European Club Association and the European Leagues were “adamant that the current proposals are unacceptable as they stand.”
The three bodies “were of the unequivocal view that any decision on potential new competitions can only be made as part of an agreed framework for the international match calendar post-2024.”
“Furthermore, all related sporting and commercial matters must be fully disclosed and discussed amongst professional football stakeholders beforehand.”
World players’ union FIFPro is also represented on the PFSC but for some reason, the statement added, “was not in a position to publicly comment” on the proposed new competitions.
Infantino first floated his idea at the FIFA Council meeting last March when he asked his inner circle to approve a deal to sell a 49% stake in the two tournaments.
But intense secrecy over who exactly is stumping up the $25 billion over 12 years from 2021 – believed to be Saudi money – has caused widespread disquiet, especially among the European football elite, and is heaping pressure on Infantino’s credibility in the build-up to the all-important vote.
Because of the lack of detail, Infantino has twice seen approval of his project delayed and the whole caboozle has now been shunted to Miami in mid-March where a decision on whether to expand the Qatar World Cup in 2022 to 48 teams is also due to be made.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has already made his feelings known about Infantino’s $25 billion plan in a number of pointed statements, most recently at the UEFA Congress in Rome last week where Infantino was himself in the audience.
If he fails to get approval, Infantino, who will be re-elected as FIFA president unopposed in June, will have to try some other tactic in order to come good on his pledge to significantly boost the coffers of FIFA members over the next four years.
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